Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul directed State agencies to prepare emergency response assets in advance of a winter storm system expected to bring statewide impacts and heavy rates of snowfall beginning late Thursday night and continuing through Friday evening. The Capital Region and North Country are expected to see the highest snowfall accumulations with the potential for more than a foot of snow. A general 8 to 12 inches of snow is forecast for other parts of the North Country and Capital Region, as well as the Mohawk Valley, Central New York and Finger Lakes Regions. The Southern Tier and Western New York Regions could receive up to 8 inches of snow, while locations in the Mid-Hudson Region could see up to 6 inches.
VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks are available below:
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us at this beautiful site. I want to thank all the workers and the people who are ready to respond to the weather events as we’re getting very concerning forecast. I first want to acknowledge the invasion of the Ukraine last night. Very frightening images. Our hearts go out to all the residents of that country that is now under siege. We have, in New York State, one of the largest Ukrainian populations outside the country and we’re proud of this. We’re proud of their diversity and what they bring to all of us, but now they have family members and are deeply concerned about what’s going on in their home country.
So, we’re concerned about those individuals and our support is with President Biden as he manages through this crisis. And also remind everyone that we are on heightened alert with respect to cybersecurity and our own defenses. We had a meeting with our commissioners over the weekend. We had another announcement with Mayor Adams to announce a joint security operations center to address the threats and to deal with any incidents as they occur. First time in our nation that there’s been this level of coordination between the state and local governments. And we also are putting money behind those efforts in our budget to beef up our own defenses, but also to make money available to localities to be able to deal with this. So, our thoughts are with the individuals who are under siege today.
We are also preparing for a winter storm system that is coming now. It seems a little strange. We don’t have the piles of snow and the ice out there, but just like in sports and in life, preparation is all about making sure you have good defensive measures in place. So, the best offense is a good defense. That’s what we’re doing here today, we’re prepping and getting the word out about what is in store, based on the weather forecast that we’re hearing now, to give some latest updates.
We have our commissioner who’s very seasoned in this, Commissioner Jackie Bray, Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. We just went through a record breaking cataclysmic ice storm event just a couple of weeks ago in Ulster County, our own commissioner’s house without power for days. We are all seared with the knowledge that this could happen. And we’re preparing, right now, as we speak in before the first snowfall comes.
Also our Commissioner of DOT, Commissioner Dominguez who, again, has been out there on the front lines of this from the very beginning. This is a long, brutal winter, even though it seemed like springtime yesterday, and even this morning, it’s not coming down yet, we know that it’s going to change.
Also, very proud to have our County Executive George Latimer who’s been through a number of storms with us as well, and I want to thank him for what he has done. And at the end of this, I’ll give a brief COVID update as well.
So, the forecast right now is to have a winter storm starting at 10:00 PM tonight, moving from the southwest to the northeast. The vast majority of the state is going to be impacted by this. Again, don’t be lulled by the lack of snow now, it’s going to come very quickly and upstate, it should be anywhere from six to 12, even 18 inches further north. The city, downstate, should be in a decent place, but also, you know, there is a boundary and you see that right around Poughkeepsie, where we’re expecting about six to eight inches in this area. Just because you go to bed and it looks like spring outside, when you wake up, it’s going to be a very different world is going to feel much more like December.
So, every county in our state has a winter storm warning, advisory, or watch in place. The warnings are right now at Capitol Region, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Upper Mid-Hudson and Eastern Central New York. The watches are the Southern Tier and Western parts of Central New York, as well as our advisories are in Western New York, Finger Lakes, Lower Mid-Hudson, New York City and parts of Long Island. It’s a beautiful color coded map, but by tomorrow it’ll all be white. That is my prediction.
And so what does that mean? Very messy commute tomorrow and when we say messy, that means that the roads could be dangerous and we’re pre-treating roads already. That’s going to continue throughout. You’re going to see our trucks out there in advance, in preparation to get the roads ready for the onslaught of snow and ice. Our advice is when you wake up, if you can work remotely, if you can stay off the roads that allows us to keep the roads clear. If you must drive, please take it slow and easy. And again, anticipation, you know, preparation is how we get through these storms is having people on the ground before the snow falls. And that’s why we’ve deployed already 5,500 power line men and women from utility companies who are standing ready to support our efforts.
We’ll let our commissioners talk a little more about the storm, but I do want to talk about the fact that we have incredible resources. The DOT has plow truck operators. Thruway Authority has its plows ready to go. We’re activating our emergency operation centers in Syracuse, Albany, and New York, as well as I mentioned the utility workers.
[ . . . ]
Thank you, County Executive. And while our weather forecast overall looks rather dark and foreboding, our COVID forecast is definitely much brighter. So, we’re looking at our pre-surge levels now. We finally came out of this Omicron variant, which again was named on November 21st, 22nd. And literally within a couple of weeks, we had our first cases here in the state of New York. So, you look at that graph and it is extraordinary to see where we came from last October, to where we are today on early February, our numbers from February 23rd, yesterday.
So, positives, 2,700. Which is incredible, given we’ve been up at 90,000 positive cases, just January 7th. We’ve seen a continuous downward trend over the past 47 days. Westchester, for example, we have only 105 cases and you know, something we’re actually tracking as well, since we suspended our indoor mask requirements, mask or vaccination requirement, we’ve not seen an increase in cases, which is what we’ve been monitoring very closely. So that again is very good news.
Statewide, the positivity is 2.1, down from a peak of 23 percent, January 2nd and daily positivity is continuing to be down below 2.5 percent for the past six days. And so that is great. And Mid-Hudson area where we are today is even below 2 percent, below the statewide average. So these are truly good numbers. This is a cause of optimism, a sense that we are beyond turning the corner. We are emerging from this.
And also our hospitalization. Another metric we watch very closely because hospitals are the lagging indicator. First, there’s infection, than illness, and then in more extreme cases, there’s hospitalizations. So, we’re down to about 2200 hospitalizations. That’s down from 12,000 we just had literally a month and a half ago. So, that’s incredible. And hospitalizations have been going down for 42 days as well.
We are still losing our fellow New Yorkers. We lost 31 individuals yesterday and of course one is too many. So we keep those individuals and their families, in our hearts and minds. So hospitalizations again, another stress point that really showed the fracture in our system, that our healthcare system really came through a lot over the last two years, and then to be hit with Omicron over December, January, it was really hard.
We lost a lot of individuals who left their profession. Healthcare workers getting sick themselves. So, we really were under a tremendous stress threat. As you all know, we had to take some extraordinary steps, and that was to identify the hardest hit areas, the ones that needed the most help. And those are areas we had to suspend elective surgeries and to have a flex in surge capacity that we’re now coming out of.
The great news is all of our hospitals are off the list to have to pause those nine elective surgeries and procedures. I want to thank all the hospitals who had to go through tremendous stress. They were there with us. Constant engagement by myself and my team with our hospitals throughout the state. And now you can see that our hospitalizations are trending down in a great – you know, the red being the statewide numbers – a much better place than we had been just a short time ago. And that’s just a stark reminder of what this state and all of our communities had to go through just in the very recent time.
And vaccinations. This has always been our key to come out of this pandemic and save millions of lives nationwide. And we’re going to continue promoting vaccinations. I mean, there is no reason why every New Yorker does not get a vaccination and get boosted because even you hear the cases now of people contracting the virus, the symptoms are very minor. It is just dealing with a cold or flu for a few days, nowhere near what it would have been if we weren’t boosted.
So, I’m proud of the fact that because of our nonstop promotions and talking about this and having New Yorkers who listened to us, we are number one among the large states for a fully vaccinated total population. We’re number one among large states for fully vaccinated 12 to 17 year old’s, something we’ve been pushing very intently. And we’re number two in the nation for large states for the category of 5 to 11 year-olds being fully vaccinated. I believe we can get that to number one. We can continue to push that. But right now we have nearly a third of that age group, but here’s what we can do.
Parents whose children are on break, they’re here, there’s plenty of vaccination sites, it’s easy to find. And if you can just take that extra step of getting your children vaccinated, or if they’re already fully vaccinated, let them get the booster, the extra fortification that they have just in case we have to go through this again.
So again, our number ones are a source of pride for us. We didn’t do it alone. We did it with the help of a lot of New Yorkers who heard the call and understood what they’re doing is not just protecting their own health, but the health of their families and their loved ones. So a great success there on the vaccinations.
And also testing. We’re still pushing out the test kits. You know, we amassed over 92 million test kits at a time when many states were scrambling and we knew that this was a way that if people could find out whether or not they’re positive, if they’re positive, they self-quarantine. They keep themselves isolated from others. So that’s how we stopped the spread.
And we also knew that this was an important key to keeping our schools open as well as everyone has heard for literally six months. I’ve been on the job six months today. On that first day, I said, we need to ensure that we have an end to remote learning that every child can be in a school, in a learning environment that is far more beneficial for them educationally, but also for their mental health, because we saw how hard hit our kids were having to learn remotely, the stress that was on the teachers, the stress that was on parents.
And so in order to ameliorate that and give people the confidence that they can go into classrooms safely, that is when six months ago we instituted the school mask requirement. As we’re coming out of this winter break, I’ve said this for a number of weeks now, we’re watching the numbers. And what I also am doing aggressively is getting out testing kits.
We have over 20 million test kits that have already been distributed to schools. 4.8 million were sent to schools just before this most recent break. We’re sending another 2 million out next week. So basically when the kids come back from their breaks and most of them are on break right now, when they come back, parents please use those kits. Test your children Monday morning, before they head into school, it doesn’t take much time. It’s not invasive. It’s very simple. And then there’s enough kits that have been distributed free to test them again, just in a couple of days, just in case they were exposed. If you took a vacation, you went to Florida, Disney World and there might’ve been exposure there.
So this is just one way we can make sure that there’s not been an increase and we’ve seen a few times in past breaks there is an increase, but with more children vaccinated, we’re in a much better place. So we are prepared to stay on the same timeline that I’ve been laying out for a number of weeks now, of what we’re going to continue looking at, as we make decisions on the school masks, and this will always be driven by the data that is in front of us. Continuing to reduce the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations, the vaccinations are going up as well. As I said, I’m going to keep my eye on any global trends that are out there because again, back in November, it seemed like it could be a safe time to start talking about loosening up some of the requirements. And that would have been the wrong decision at that time. Given what we know now, looking in the rear view mirror, what happened with Omicron when we were just walloped with a variant that spread like wildfire.
So I don’t foresee that, but I needed to have the luxury of time to assess that closest to real time, which is what we’re starting to approach now. So I’m going to continue working with my team, but also with teachers and parents, the individuals who run the schools, the school superintendents and the school boards, and continue to have that constant dialogue we’ve been having since the beginning. So we’ll be having more announcements on that after the break is over.